Harvind Bhatti, general manager, Global Reviews
The internet has commoditised many products as price transparency makes it easier for customers to find the best deal. Companies offering similar products online, such as mortgages, mobile phones or utilities, are recognising they need to show users how their offerings are better or different, and encourage them to look beyond price.
A study by Global Reviews found that 75% of people looking to buy these types of product go straight to price information, interest rate or the quote process, with only 25% reading product information first. Therefore, the best way to differentiate products is as part of the actual buying process, using tools that describe them in multi-dimensional ways to highlight attributes that may better meet a customer’s needs than competitors’ products.
We found the energy industry has a significant amount to do in this area. It scored an average of only 48% in our recent benchmark for customer online experience. To meet expectations, websites must score above 55%, and above 69% to exceed them. British Gas led the way with a score of 57%, and while it still has a long way to go, a lot can be learned from its website.
British Gas’s tariff selection process provides a tool that differentiates options through price alone. But a higher profile tool is one that clearly demonstrates the four key products flexible, green, online and pre-paid with their individual benefits, positioning price as the final filter.
The mortgage industry scored an average of 43% in the benchmark. In the category that assesses how providers help people find the mortgage that best suits their needs, Northern Rock received the highest score, with 68%. It enables you to compare products’ attributes, such as lower setup fees and loan-to-value ratios that could justify a slightly higher interest rate, and demonstrates this with easy-to-read tables as part of the selection process.
The mobile broadband industry scored just 41% in the benchmark, with Vodafone leading the way with a score of 48%. It now directs customers through a tariff wizard, which asks questions to find what’s important to them, such as how much they use the internet, and helps them decide on an appropriate tariff based on factors besides price.
Companies that engage people in the purchasing process using key differentiators, such as the number of calls they make or how much energy they use, are showing that they offer more than just a good price, and can reassure people that the other aspects of the product serve them better than competitors.